Cedillo is re-elected in Council District 1

LOS ANGELES — A month ago, things weren’t looking good for the re-election chances of City Councilman Gil Cedillo.

A young activist, challenger Joe Bray-Ali, had forced Cedillo into a runoff after the March 7 primary election and the Los Angeles Times and council colleague Mitch O’Farrell both endorsed Bray-Ali over the former state legislator.

On May 16, Cedillo’s worries were over after he overwhelmingly was re-elected to a second term representing Council District 1 on the City Council.

Cedillo received 70 percent of the vote, with Bray-Ali receiving just under 30 percent.

“Those voters in the 1st District are smart,” Cedillo told his supporters at an election night celebration. They chose experience. … They chose someone who wants to bring people together.”

Bray-Ali actually received a larger percentage of the vote in the March primary when Cedillo received 49.8 percent, just under the required 50 percent plus one needed to avoid a runoff.

But Bray-Ali lost the endorsements of The Times and O’Farrell in late April when a series of racist and derogatory statements he had made online came to light. One of the posts included the racial slur known as the N-word, and others appeared to mock overweight people and the transgender community.

Following the revelations, Bray-Ali was denounced by numerous civil rights and LGBT leaders in Los Angeles, and seven City Council members called for him to drop out of the race.

Bray-Ali at first apologized for remarks, then contended some of them were being taken out of context. He declined to pull out of the race.

Cedillo was the only council incumbent forced into a runoff election this year. No council incumbent had been unseated by a challenger since Nick Pacheco lost to Antonio Villaraigosa in the 14th District in 2003.

Cedillo had a long list of endorsements, including Mayor Eric Garcetti, eight City Council members, Gov. Jerry Brown and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.

“Congratulations to Gil Cedillo on his well-deserved re-election that ensures we can continue building stronger neighborhoods and standing up for the most vulnerable Angelenos,” Garcetti said in a statement.

Council District 1 includes Chinatown, Highland Park, Westlake and other northeast Los Angeles neighborhoods.


Veterans ask Bray-Ali to drop out of council race

LOS ANGELES — A group of military veterans called on City Council candidate Joe Bray-Ali to withdraw from the race May 3 over a blog post in which he advocated burning the American flag and wiping it in feces.

Bray-Ali was already under fire from LGBT groups, civil rights organizations and numerous elected city officials for a series of racist and derogatory statements he has made online.

The group of veterans held a news conference in Highland Park. Although the vets do not represent any official veterans organization, a spokesman for the group, Mark Quiroz, predicted there would be around 40 vets there, plus family members.

Quiroz said the vets are angry about a 2006 blog post from Bray-Ali in which he wrote, “Let people burn the flag all they want, let ’em put it in their avant-garde art videos smeared in poo, let them destroy it.”

Bray-Ali did not respond to a request to comment.

Quiroz said Bray-Ali was asked by a veteran at a candidate forum on April 19 to apologize for the comments and he declined.

“He was given the opportunity to apologize in an open forum and he refused to,” said Quiroz, a former member of the Glassell Park Neighborhood Council, adding that the veterans do not plan to endorse Bray-Ali’s opponent, First District Councilman Gil Cedillo.

Bray-Ali lost the endorsement of the Los Angeles Times and City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell last week after it was revealed he made online comments in which he used the N-word, called gender reassignment surgery a “shameless excess,” used the word “retard” and made other comments which offended leaders in the LGBT and civil rights communities.

The endorsements had been a significant boost for Bray-Ali, a former bicycle shop owner who has never held political office. Bray-Ali has apologized for those comments.

After losing the endorsements, Bray-Ali decided to come forward with other damaging information about himself, and in a Facebook post admitted to habitually cheating on his wife for years, owing $48,000 in back taxes and committing vandalism.

Councilman Gil Cedillo

Bray-Ali forced Cedillo into the May 16 runoff for the First District seat. Cedillo was just short of the required 50 percent of the vote on March 7, finishing with 49.34 percent to Bray-Ali’s 37.97 percent.

Bray-Ali has vowed to fight through election day even though his comments have been denounced by City Controller Ron Galperin, Equality California, the Courage Campaign and the Los Angeles chapter of the National Action Network, along with seven sitting City Council members who called on him to drop out of the race.

Bray-Ali’s wife, Susan Wong, defended him May 2 in a post on his campaign’s Facebook page.

“I know my husband Josef, and he is a person of integrity. He is caring and inclusive of all people. In this climate, it is so important for people to check the sources and see if true journalism is occurring, or if a misleading headline, and mischaracterizations are occurring. We need to make sure that we critically analyze everything,” Wong said.

Bray-Ali said his online slurs “are a distraction from what this election is about and not a reflection of who I am as a person. They are a verification that I am a human being with flaws, like everyone.”

He added, “A career built around serving our community, all colors and creeds and genders, a campaign built around neighbor-to-neighbor connections and not institutional support and developer backing — that is who I am.”

Bray-Ali said he made the comments because he wanted to engage bigots to understand them better and “ended up sounding like a bigot myself. And I’m not proud of it.”



City closes escrow on property along L.A. River

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles leaders hailed the close of escrow March 3 on nearly 42 acres of property key to the city’s plan to revitalize the Los Angeles River.

The city paid the Union Pacific Railroad $59.3 million for the land alongside the river, called the Taylor Yard G2 plot, and estimates its development will cost $252 million, including the purchase price. The state has agreed to contribute $25 million.

“We’ve always considered G2 to be the crown jewel in our vision to revitalize the L.A. River, and that’s why I have been committed to fighting for the resources to finally return this land to the people of Los Angeles and the wildlife that call it home,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said.

“We got it done, and now this vast site can transform how Angelenos connect with the natural world —because it will allow for habitat restoration, and open more than a mile of direct access to the river for local communities that have been cut off from it for too long,” he said.

The Taylor Yard G2 acreage is on the east bank of the L.A. River in Cypress Park. Development of the plot will connect it to Rio de Los Angeles State Park and with the Bowtie parcel, another state park.

The plot is a side project connected to a possible $1.4 billion U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan to revitalize 11 miles of river running through the Elysian Valley and return it to a more natural state.

“It has been a process to secure the G2 site in Council District 1, but we have finally done it” said Councilman Gil Cedillo, whose First District includes the land. “G2 is the most integral part of the L.A. River Revitalization Master Plan for Northeast L.A., for it is the only direct access point to the river from the communities in our district. It is the beginning of the future for the L.A. River as we imagine it.”

“I’ve been focused on revitalizing the L.A. River for the better part of a decade, including fighting for the $25 million budget allocation that made it possible for us to acquire this parcel,” state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León said. “We have a long way to go to realize our dream of a healthy L.A. River as a vibrant social and recreational center of our city, but today the future looks brighter than ever.”

“Today, Angelenos now own the largest available piece of property along our Los Angeles River,” City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell said. “Parcel G2 is a keystone for habitat restoration identified in our Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan, and I commend everyone involved for the tremendous lift to acquire this asset for all of Los Angeles to enjoy.”

The land is expected to take five to 10 years to develop before the public will get to use the space due to the significant environmental cleanup that will need to be done.

While city leaders celebrated the acquisition of the land, the future of the larger $1.4 billion revitalization plan is unclear. The council voted in 2013 to split the cost 50/50 with the Army Corps of Engineers, but the Army Corps has only agreed to pay 20 percent. There is also the looming threat by President Donald Trump to cut off federal funding to so-called “sanctuary cities,” which could end up applying to Los Angeles.

Los Angeles is expected to be a target because of the LAPD’s longstanding policy of not initiating contact with a person simply to determine their immigration status, and other stances city leaders are taking to oppose Trump.